Researchers and medical experts are coming increasingly to believe that what is good for the mind is good for the body. Medical Daily notes that studies have linked “mindfulness” to lower levels of stress, better anxiety management, reduced arthritic pain and a lower risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.
But recent research takes it one step further, suggesting that your mental acuity can actually help to predict how healthy your heart is. According to a recent study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, individuals who are better at ‘being mindful’ are also at a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attack.
So what does it mean to be mindful? According to researchers, “dispositional mindfulness” refers to an individual’s tendency toward focus, intuition, bodily self-awareness and an array of additional observational or sensorial tendencies. Researchers engaged 382 participants, all of whom completed a diagnostic survey called the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS).
The MAAS presented participants with 15 statements on mindfulness. An example of one of these mindfulness metrics states “I find it difficult to stay focused on what’s happening in the present.” Respondents were then asked to rate the accuracy of each statement on a six-point scale from “almost always” to “almost never.”
Participants were also simultaneously monitored for the seven indicators of cardiovascular health as identified by the American Heart Association (AHA): blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, height, weight, waist circumference, eating habits and exercise habits.
Though there have been studies in the past connecting mindfulness to pain management and mental health, this was the first time that it was linked to the array of risk factors that define individual heart health profiles. The result was an 83% greater “prevalence of cardiovascular health” among those that scored higher on the MAAS than among those that scored lower in categories of mindfulness.
The study suggests that those who are more mindful and focused will generally display greater calm, equanimity and other features that help reduce the strain that mental distress can place on one’s heart. However, the findings may be about more than just the positive connection between body and mind.
Researchers say that those who are more mindful and focused in general will also tend to be more aware when it comes to managing their risk factors. Mindful individuals, the study said, are more predisposed to healthy eating habits and patterns of physical activeness. They are also less likely to indulge regularly in excessive junk food, cigarette smoking or other lifestyle choices with negative connotations for heart health.
Get Your Head Heart-Healthy
Making different lifestyle choices like altering your dietary habits, starting an exercise routine or kicking your smoking addiction may seem challenging. But medical experts suggest that the first step to any of these major changes is channeling your focus.
One researcher suggests that you could benefit from something as simple as taking a few minutes each day to sip a cup of tea without any other distractions. This can help to center you and bring you calm, even in the middle of a hectic day. This enhanced calm and improved focus could help you to make better decisions for your body.
Researchers also recommend ‘mindful meditation’ as a way to find your center. Even just ten minutes of focused breathing exercises or yogic stretching each morning can have a big impact on how you see the day ahead. If you need some help with independent meditation, Medical Daily recommends using a helpful smartphone app like Calm and Headspace.
When you find a method for mindfulness that works for you, you won’t just be clearing your head. You’ll be strengthening your heart too.